The UK’s Rwanda Deportation Policy: A Solution to Asylum or a Human Rights Issue?

The deportation deal between the UK and Rwanda has provoked many protestsImage: Vuk Valcic/Zuma Wire/IMAGO

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The UK government has passed a contentious law called a Rwanda deportation bill that permits sending asylum seekers to Rwanda. Human rights activists have chided the law as inhumane, immigration experts have dismissed it as impractical, and legal critics say it is further eroding the rule of law and good governance. This article chronicles the arguments all sides of the aisles have been parading and will draw some observations of my own, too.

The UK has been grappling with the illegal immigration problem for some time, which is dipping into her coffers. So, it surprises a few that draconian measures were taken to curb such legal loopholes that have been abused by illegal immigrants who are mostly economically in search of green pasture there.

That is not the purpose of asylum, designed to act as a refugee place for those fleeing persecution, not economic. Persecutions may be against political, sexual orientation, religious or faith-based hostilities. Asylum seekers must fear their lives are in grave danger because they are espousing thoughts, beliefs and aspirations contrary to the societal ones.

Examples may include political asylum seekers who flee from civil wars at home. In Sudan, those dwelling there may have a reason to be asylum seekers for political reasons. Others may be political writers or content producers, politicians, teachers, or anti-establishment opinion leaders. Those may have a reason to worry about their safety and security.

Religious asylum seekers may include those who are minorities, like Muslims in Myanmar, who are being targeted for their spiritual faith. Sexual orientation may cover those whose countries of origin have anti-gay and anti-trans laws that may punish them with jail sentences and or capital punishment.

The history of asylum can be traced in the Holy Bible, where Our Maker commanded His chosen people, the Israelis, to set aside places for refugees, particularly to shield those who have committed murder perchance. The goal was to prevent an angry relative from exacting revenge for an unpremeditated murder.

Examples of unpremeditated murder may include what today we call manslaughter. That a murderer did not intend to kill, so he is deemed a victim of horrible circumstances. If someone was hewing stones or trees, then an axe or hammer flew by accident and hit another person who happened to die, then that is not murder, but an angry relative may perceive it differently.

Also, read Tanzania’s Generosity Shines: Honoring Refugees on World Refugee Day

So, places of refuge were designed to allow the wrongdoers to run and hide there, permitting the anger of the next kin of the murdered to cool off and subside while elders had sufficient time to rummage and establish the truth.

It is from this reality that provisions for asylum were considered. In our cases, regimes tend to persecute certain categories of their citizens who do not subscribe to their values, or deadly conflicts may expose others to a line of harm in a manner they cannot depend on their governments to protect them. It is their governments that want to put them in harm’s way. So, instead of running towards their governments, they run away. In such circumstances, we may have places of refugees outside those countries.

In other circumstances, we may have internally displaced refugees inside their own country, as was the case in Kenya after the bungled elections of 2007. Ethnic strife to dislodge others from land disguised as political fracas was parlayed as an excuse. In that situation, refugees stay in the country because their governments are not hostile to them.

The UK Immigration Conundrum

The UK is in dire straits as far as illegal immigration is concerned. Some too many illegal immigrants have slipped through their once thought-to-be tight net to discourage the illegals from overwhelming their beautiful country. Britain is a small country by size and is plagued by many ecological hazards that few illegal immigrants are aware of.

Accommodation is pricy, and after the Ukrainian conflict started two years ago, inflation and the general cost of living have jumped to dizzying heights.

Asylum seekers are sipping the government money, and this has become an onerous responsibility to the government. Some of those asylum seekers do not qualify for government handouts and beg in the streets, resorting to petty crime to subsist. The crime rate in the UK is growing rapidly, and policymakers link it to illegal immigration.

The composition and identity of a nation are changing so fast that in less than 30 years from now, the Caucasian race may be in the minority. That alone sends shock waves to the fabric of British society. The UK is dominantly a Christian nation, but in less than two decades from now, atheism will overtake Christianity as the main spiritual force in the country.

With the identity of a nation ticking the endangered species box and a chunk of resources being allocated to cater for asylum seekers who do not add value to their traditions and cultures, it is becoming more of a disincentive to sustain the asylum policy. This policy was hatched out of the threats against the survival of a nation. Essentially, the policy says it has found an asylum seeker’s dumpster somewhere in Rwanda. They will dump this asylum problem somewhere in Africa and live happily thereafter. But will they?

The Rwanda asylum legislation is designed to allow the UK government to put some asylum seekers on one-way flights to Rwanda, where the authorities would process their claims in that Central African country. If they were granted refugee status, they would be resettled in Rwanda, not Britain.

From the moment the plan was first introduced in 2022, under then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, experts said it would breach Britain’s human rights obligations under domestic and international law.

Even after the passage of the new bill, which came under heavy opposition in the House of Lords and effectively overrides a ruling by Britain’s Supreme Court, any deportation attempts are likely to encounter a flurry of further legal challenges, making it unlikely that large numbers of asylum seekers will ever be sent to Rwanda.

This legislation was being pushed by the forthcoming elections where the ruling party, the conservatives, are lagging in polls and are poring for a reprieve. The main reason the conservatives are unpopular is because the economy is underperforming. People are angry that their living standards keep deteriorating without signs of abating soon. As usual, the aggrieved citizens blame the government in power, in this case, the Tory government, aka the conservatives.

Also, read Suffering in the DR Congo: The Fate of Complex Conflict and Poverty Against Environment

The Tory government is exploiting the asylum congestion as a scapegoat for unleashing economic woes at home. The harsh reality remains while asylum seekers may have placed their narrow straws in the national cauldron, but that is too insignificant to account for the causes of the economic pain at home.

In Rwanda, the asylum seekers sent so far are from poor countries, and paradoxically, some hail from Africa. Rwandan law is against same-sex relationships; it is not clear if those fitting this category can be swished there. If they do, the asylum seekers are being sent to be persecuted. With legal challenges up to the European courts, few agree with the UK prime minister who bragged this is novel,” he said of the policy. “It is innovative, but it will be a game changer.”

Well, it is an election gimmick that will quickly be abandoned no sooner the last election results are announced. However, those already in Rwanda are unlikely to be whisked back to the UK, knowing their fate is already simmering in the pot. They are done, or if unhappy with this arrangement, they may migrate to other countries like South Africa or Kenya, where liberalism seems to rule the day. The asylum seekers must fend for themselves to achieve that since handouts are most likely to go AOWL.

Tanzania Evaluates the Impact of the UK’s Rwanda Asylum Policy

The UK’s recent Rwanda deportation bill, which facilitates the transfer of asylum seekers to Rwanda, is drawing significant attention in Tanzania and across Africa. The law has faced widespread criticism for its perceived inhumanity and practicality issues, and it challenges the principles of international law and human rights.

Tanzania, which is dealing with its own refugee and immigration issues, sees this as a reflection of a growing trend in which Western nations outsource asylum responsibilities to African countries. This could influence Tanzania’s domestic policies and international relations, especially as it navigates such agreements’ ethical and logistical challenges.

The UK justifies the bill as a necessary measure against the economic drain caused by illegal immigration—a situation Tanzania understands well, given its role as a host for regional refugees. However, the outsourcing strategy prompts serious concerns about potential human rights violations and the adherence to international asylum protocols.

This policy might shape discussions in Tanzania around national security, economic sustainability, and humanitarian duties, potentially leading to considerations of similar agreements. This situation allows Tanzania to reassess its approach to international migration and asylum, striving to balance its national interests with its international legal and humanitarian commitments.

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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